Admitting that in dealing with the Maoist threat, “we had been in a state of denial,” Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said here on Tuesday that the Centre did not accept the theory of an armed struggle, and that unless the left ultras abjured violence, the paramilitary forces will engage them and reassert the authority of the State.

Mr. Chidambaram said the voter turnout of 58 per cent -- most of whom were tribals -- in the recent Jharkhand polls was a “stinging rebuke and rejection of the Communist Party of India (Maoists).”

Speaking of his government’s decision to send paramilitary forces to reclaim the State’s authority over territory lost by it to be followed by rapid development programmes, Mr. Chidambaram said the work of paramilitary forces and development could not go hand-in-hand.

“In Jharkhand alone, in the past 35 days, a dozen schools have been demolished,” he said, adding that development projects cannot be supported in such a situation.

Mr. Chidambaram also pointed out that the Jharkhand polls -- where the Maoists declared that if anyone went to vote, their thumb would be cut off -- proved that “a large number of people support Maoists, not willingly but out of fear.”

The Minister, who was addressing a conference organised by the Chambers of Industries and Commerce, pointed out that the three challenges to India’s internal security were the insurgency in the northeast, Maoists and terrorism.

Zero tolerance

Declaring 2009 to have been “a terror-free year for India, with nine days to go,” Mr. Chidambaram reaffirmed his government’s stand of zero tolerance for terrorism.

He added that the perception that “terrorism was an imported phenomenon” was no longer entirely valid as there were home-grown terrorist groups in India.

On the issue of armed insurgency in the northeast, he said that while the creation of sovereign states was out of the question, the Indian Constitution was flexible enough to create forms of governance where the desires and aspirations of the people can be accommodated.

Splendid cooperation

Mr. Chidambaram said that after the Sheik Hasina government took over the reins in Bangladesh, there has been “splendid co-operation from Bangladesh, which has contributed enormously in bringing down insurgency in the northeast.”

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